Superior Drinks


images by Spencer Kohn

As you sip, or chug (no judgement), that cocktail, wine, or beer in your hand, did you ever think about it first being a plant?

It’s amazing how easily we disconnect from what we put in our bodies.  But the truth is, alcohol doesn’t fall from the clouds, nor is there a clean, fresh mountain spring from where it was sourced.   In fact, it was a plant, rooted in soil, just like fruits and veggies bought from a local farmers market (to ensure we’re doing the best we can for our bodies and the environment, of course).

Yes it’s liquid, but like a butterfly who was once a caterpillar, we are actually drinking the metamorphosis of a grain, seed, fruit, or root.  Corn, quinoa, apple, grape, sugar cane, potato – you name it. If there is sugar present, we can turn it into alcohol, and we do!


images by Spencer Kohn

I understand.  Choosing what to eat and drink these days has become overwhelming.  It seems like constantly everything thought to be right is now wrong.  So what else to do but go take a load off, forget those worries, and have a drink?  Nothing wrong with that, well, except the load of chemical fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers that just bombed our bodies. Wine especially is of great concern. All of those chemicals sprayed onto the grapes actually become the wine and there is no way to filter them out.  That nasty headache? Not from the naturally occurring sulfites -  believe me, only a tiny percentage of the world’s population is sensitive to that. But I wouldn’t recommend vodka made from genetically modified grain sprayed with countless chemicals as an alternative…

“So now I can’t even have a drink!?”

Wrong.

There are plenty of incredible local, organic, and sustainable options today.  It’s as easy as a Google-search to find them.  And if you keep your eye out, I bet you’ll see at least one or two organic liquors, wines, or beers on the list.  But if you don’t, make sure to ask.  You have the buying power so don’t be shy. The more you ask, the more you’ll see!

Some will claim, “organic never tastes as good.” To which I reply, “If that were true in the past, it is no longer true today, most you will see taste better.” The Earth and your taste buds will thank you.

Check out Greenbar Collective, Puro Verde Organic Tequila, and Bluecoat Gin for some of my very favorites.

Local Liquor & A New Classic Manhattan

Buying local makes a huge impact in reducing our footprint on the planet.  We know our resources aren’t infinite and we know shipping from across the world uses more resources than shipping from our backyards.  So, no need to argue this point. Right? Right.

Why then has this not translated to the wonderful world of alcohol?  At a recent tradeshow, I was discussing the importance of buying local liquor with a colleague.  He wasn’t much older than me and believed that imported = better; a perspective passed down from his father. And I get it, maybe this has been proven true for cars or other products, but for alcohol?  In the film Bottleshock, America did beat France at their game with a blind wine tasting.  So let the record show, local has nothing to do with a better or worse flavor. Rather, it’s the quality and expertise we need to look at here.

If you search a little, you’re bound to find great liquors, wines, and beers local to your region.  In New York, we’re fortunate enough to have the Finger Lakes, a climate similar to Boudreaux, producing top of the line vino, many sustainably so, and at affordable prices—Wolffer Estate and Sherwood House being two of my very favorites. You can find both at Candle 79 in the Upper East Side, but if you are feeling adventurous head over to Long Island for a tour of the estates.  Wine takes on many new dimensions when you have the grapes and growers by your side.

 

Not only does Long Island have great wine, but if you are in the neighborhood, check out Long Island Spirits for a smooth shot of vodka produced using locally grown potatoes, and learn about Long Island’s rich potato growing history.

One of my favorite distilleries is Berkshire Mountain Distillers.  Located on a revived apple farm in Massachusetts, BMD is making top of the line liquors.  The Ragged Mountain Rum is a treat on the rocks, and the Greylock gin is pristine as a martini. Also try their vodka, corn whiskey, and bourbon.  Many of the ingredients are grown locally, however, the more exotic ones like sugar cane, are imported.  When purchasing the rum, you still reduce your carbon footprint because of the resources spared not having had the heavy contents traveling overseas.

 

NEW CLASSIC MANHATTAN
I love the Ragged Mountain Rum alone, but add a little depth with the following recipe:

  • • Start with a local rum like Ragged Mountain
  • • ½ oz of your favorite rich liqueur ( I used a Noccino, a walnut liqueur from Napa)
  • • A dash of bitters ( I used local bitters called Elemakule Tiki from Bittermans)
  • • Finish with a lemon twist and you have a great substitute for the classic Manhattan.

 

The Ohio Bloody Mary

Kyle Bullen of Eco Bartneder joins The Discerning Brute’s growing coterie of expert contributors with this take on the classic Bloody Mary – just in time for the weekend. Kyle’s expertise in the realm of cocktails, infusions, wines and spirits is unparalleled, having been sought by renowned restaurants from San Francisco’ Millennium to New York’s Candle 79.

  – Editor, Joshua Katcher


photo by Spencer Kohn

There is nothing quite like enjoying a Sunday Brunch with people you love in an outdoor garden or restaurant patio. That is until you’ve enjoyed a Sunday Brunch with a Bloody Mary made from freshly picked peppers and tomatoes blended in your kitchen and garnished with homemade pickled cherry tomatoes. Now marry that with organic vodka doing more for our environment than our current government and you’ve really created a masterpiece of a brunch!

Where ever I have lived, be it Pittsburgh, San Francisco, New York, or good ol’ Ohio, having a weekend brunch will always remain one of my favorite things to do. It is nearly impossible to have a poor time, well until your Bloody Mary comes and it taste like preservatives or there is so much horseradish it taste like biting into the entire root. And have you ever seen one of those in person? Trust me; you don’t want to bite into that for more reasons than one. They don’t call it HORSEradish for nothing!

While in Ohio over the weekend, my parents, my friend Paul, and I created a Sunday Brunch before I headed back to the airport. I know living in Metro New York doesn’t afford the possibility of walking down the hill to a lush garden bursting with so much fruit you can’t possibly consume all of it in a season. Earlier that Thursday we pickled cherry tomatoes and canned hot peppers for this reason. And what a delightful treat on a Bloody Mary we all thought!

After heading down to the garden, we picked fresh tomatoes and peppers for our mix. In New York or other cities we are graced with bountiful farmer’s markets, so for your mix head on down to Union Square for some locally grown and organic produce; both the Earth and your taste buds will thank you.

The great thing about fresh Bloody Mary mix is the creativity it affords the maker. As long as you stick to fresh ingredients and flavors you love, you can’t go wrong. So play around with prep like roasting the tomatoes first or using fresh heirloom varieties. Throw in your favorite herbs like basil—fresh heirloom blended with Thai Basil is a real treat. I suggest experimenting with different varieties of fresh peppers. You can always stay traditional with Tabasco after the pepper season passes.

THE OHIO BLOODY MARY

  • • 3 cup Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • • ¾ cup filtered water
  • • 2 large hot yellow peppers
  • • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • • Juice of 2 limes (cherry tomatoes are not very acidic, rather they are sweet, balance
  • • accordingly to the acid level of your tomatoes)
  • • ½ tbsp horseradish root (bonus points if you find it fresh and grate it yourself)
  • • 5 dashes Worcestershire sauce (vegan varieties are available—others contain anchovy)
  • • 1oz olive juice
  • • Dash of salt and black pepper

 

  1. 1. Blend above ingredients on high until liquified.
  2. 2. Add ice to a 10-12 oz. glass filled with 1 ½ oz. of your favorite local or organic vodka. I like to use TRU Organic coming out of Los Angeles from the Greenbar Collective.*
  3. 3. Garnish is serious on a Bloody Mary. It can make or break it! I find it usually essential to have a celery stick, it not only looks nice but it adds a refreshing flavor. We we fortunate enough to have housemade picked tomatoes which were quite delicious. I have never seen them for retail purchase, so find a different pickle substitute at the local market.
  4. 4. An olive and lemon or lime wedge will finish it off.
  5. 5. Sometimes a spiced salt rim is also nice and some fresh herbs; play around, the possibilities are endless!

 

*The Greenbar Collective is superb. For every bottle of liquor produced, they match it by planting a tree. Because the company is already carbon neutral, they offset more carbon with the trees and become a carbon NEGATIVE company. For you, this means by drinking their liquor, you do more for the planet than by not drinking it. Save the world one Bloody Mary at a time!

You can find it at Bowery and Vine for retail purchase, and if you prefer someone else making your drinks, head over to Candle 79 for a TRU vodka martini and other Greenbar Collective liquors to get your tree planting on.